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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

U.S.-China Counterterrorism Cooperation: Issues for U.S. Policy

Shirley A. Kan
Specialist in Asian Security Affairs

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States faced a challenge in enlisting the full support of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the counterterrorism fight against Al Qaeda. This effort raised short-term policy issues about how to elicit cooperation and how to address PRC concerns about the U.S.-led war (Operation Enduring Freedom). Longer-term issues have concerned whether counterterrorism has strategically transformed bilateral ties and whether China's support was valuable and not obtained at the expense of other U.S. interests. 

The extent of U.S.-China counterterrorism cooperation has been limited, but the tone and context of counterterrorism helped to stabilize—even if it did not transform—the closer bilateral relationship pursued by President George Bush in late 2001. China's military, the People's Liberation Army (PLA), has not participated in the counterterrorism coalition. The Bush Administration designated the PRC-targeted "East Turkistan Islamic Movement" (ETIM) as a terrorist organization in August 2002, reportedly allowed PRC interrogators access to Uighur detainees at Guantanamo in September 2002, and held a summit in Texas in October 2002. 

Since 2005, however, U.S. concerns about China's extent of cooperation in counterterrorism have increased. In September 2005, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick acknowledged that "China and the United States can do more together in the global fight against terrorism" after "a good start," in his policy speech that called on China to be a "responsible stakeholder" in the world. The summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2005 and 2006 raised U.S. concerns. Since the summer of 2007, U.S. officials have expressed more concern about China-origin arms that have been found in the conflict involving U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as part of the broader threat posed by Iran and its arms transfers. 

Congress has oversight over the closer ties with China and a number of policy options. U.S. policy has addressed law-enforcement ties; oppressed Uighur (Uyghur) people in western Xinjiang whom China claims to be linked to "terrorists"; detained Uighurs at Guantanamo Bay prison; Olympic security in August 2008; sanctions that ban exports of arms and security equipment; weapons nonproliferation; port security; military-to-military contacts; China's influence and support in Central Asia through the SCO; and China's arms transfers to Iran. 

Congress has oversight of President Obama's efforts to transfer the Uighurs detained at Guantanamo since soon after the war began in Afghanistan in late 2001 as well as to seek China's further counterterrorism cooperation with assessments of mixed implications. The United States detained 22 Uighurs and rejected China's demand to take them. In 2006, Albania accepted five of them. In June 2009, Bermuda accepted four. In November 2009, Palau accepted six, leaving seven at Guantanamo. On June 26, 2009, the House Intelligence Committee reported H.R. 2701 (Reyes), which would require an unclassified summary of intelligence on any threats posed by the Uighurs who have been detained at Guantanamo. Other relevant legislation in the 111th Congress includes H.R. 2346 (P.L. 111-32); H.Res. 624 (Delahunt); H.Res. 774 (Hastings); H.R. 2294 (Boehner); S.Res. 155 (Brown); S. 1054 (Inouye). The Obama Administration has proposed that China increase investments and assistance to help stabilize Afghanistan (and Pakistan) as well as possible cooperation in a military supply route into northern Afghanistan. While there has been no progress in this option, the United States has concerns about dealing with China in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. After President Obama announced on December 1, 2009, that he would deploy 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, China has not pledged troops. This report will be updated as warranted. 

Date of Report: January 6, 2010
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: RL33001
Price: $29.99

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